In 2008, USCIS enacted rules limiting the amount of time a student in OPT may be unemployed.  A student is now limited to 90 days of unemployment while on OPT before he/she is considered to have violated the terms of the F-1 student visa. 

However, many students continued to ask, “If I didn’t find a job in 90 days, do I still get a 60 day grace period to remain in the US?” 

In a recent teleconference (01/22/2009) with the Nebraska Service Center, USCIS stated that if a student exceeds the maximum period of allowable unemployment while on OPT (90 days of unemployment during the 12 months of OPT / 120 total days if given a STEM extension), the student is NOT allowed to have the 60 day grace period.  He/she must depart the US immediately. 

 “What happens if I continue to stay in the US after my 90th day of unemployment and I later find an employer willing to sponsor me for an H-1B?”

Prepare for a denial.  USCIS will be carefully examining the records of students on OPT by verifying the employment information in the SEVIS system.  First time H-1B applicants that worked on OPT should be prepared to produce paychecks detailing when they started working, when they ended the position, and if/when they transferred to a new employer (if applicable).  This information may be needed in the event of a Request for Evidence.